The Restaurant Guide: EAT STREET

Updated 10/4/2012

Minneapolis' top channel for cheap ethnic dining has some high-profile new neighbors.

Eat Street Social

American • $$ • 18 W. 26th St., Mpls. • 612-767-6850

If you happen to be sipping a delicious elixir at Eat Street Social, you might have occasion to bump into co-owner Sam Bonin, and he's likely to be in some stylish attire such as white slacks with matching shoes, looking for all the world like he just stepped off of a yacht. The civilized life: spot-on mixology, beautiful people, a leisurely chat while simultaneously checking out the hottie on the other side of the bar. These are the tenets of "the Social," where solid bistro fare seals it all together in one elegant parcel. Do as I do and visit at happy hour and order every single one of the pinxos -- Spanish- and Brazilian-inspired grilled meats on skewers served with heavily buttered char-grilled bread. More intoxicating than the sum of their parts, these treats must be sampled to be believed. Also, consider buying a round of beers for the kitchen; you might even get your pinxos after their designated hour if you try this trick. In addition to a formidable cocktail menu by progressive-drinking superstar Nick Kosevich, the Social offers a soda fountain for teetotalers. Most important, be in the know: When Sam starts to make the rounds with snifters of beer, get ready to raise a toast at the sound of the bell. Ding-ding. It's time for a social. MECCA BOS

Icehouse

American • $$ • 2528 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. • 612-276-6523

Located inside a real 19th-century ice company, Icehouse has been rocking out Eat Street since June with cool local music, crazy/genius cocktails and chef Matthew Bickford's cozy-chic nosh. There is even a sweet, small rear patio overlooking a surreal Stonehenge-esque park. But as the air turns brisk and then icy, you will probably want to warm up inside with some boldly spiced, dry-rubbed buffalo wings and zany-good $5 sipping shots, like the carbonated version of a bourbon Manhattan called the "Playing Make Up, Wearing Guitar." Or the stripped-down splendor of the "Strangers in the Night": vodka with a smidge of salty caramel and a big, briny Marcona almond-stuffed green olive. Big-plate classics like lobster and steak are also on offer, but small plates like the campfire cowboy crock of legumes, garlic sausage and tender pork belly known as Bill's Electric Beans offer plenty of fodder for sustenance and spirited conversation. Finish with one of the unusual creamy sundaes featuring expertly paired flavor combinations, like bourbon-caramel-mint. That will warm your spirits, even from within this house of ice.KAT KLUEGEL

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ASIAN TASTE: Takeout-ready Chinese food, sushi and a bar, open late-night. (1400 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-871-2898.)

Bad Waitress Breakfast Joint & Coffee Shop: American. Winkingly divey diner makes customers write down their own orders at the counter, but the food delivered by the perfectly competent wait staff makes up for the inconvenience. Well-executed spins on classic American fare, including a robust breakfast selection. (2 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-872-7575.) (James Norton)

Jasmine Deli: Vietnamese. Offering quick and delicious Vietnamese classics, Jasmine Deli has become a temple to the idea of good cheap eats. From bountiful spring rolls to the hot bowls of soulfully flavored soup to broken rice plates, the extremely casual Jasmine offers little pretense, low prices and a great deal of comfort. (2532 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-4700.)

Hoang Thien Y: Vietnamese. Serving up cuisine ranging from the comforting (pork bahn mi) to the confounding (tripe and durian fruit, for starters). Go in with an open mind and flexible palate. (2738 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-874-9145.) (J.N.)

Krung Thep Thai: Authentic Thai cooking including soups, curries, salads, spring rolls and more. (2523 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-874-7721.)

Little Tijuana Cafe: Mexican favorites from this college rite-of-passage, which recently reopened with a bar. (17 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-872-0578.)

Pancho Villa Grill: Mexican. Familiar items such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas alongside a variety of more exotic dishes. Service is friendly and portions very large. (2539 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-7014.)

Pho Tau Bay: Asian/Vietnamese. It's a little farther off the beaten path than Quang and the two Jasmine restaurants, but this is some of the best and most interesting food on the street. Try anything with the house barbecued pork -- a broken rice plate or noodle dish, for example. (2837 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-874-6060.) (J.N.)

Salsa a la Salsa: Creative Mexican cuisine, incorporating the use of various Mexican peppers and spices to prepare dishes like Puerco con Nopalitos en Salsa Roja, Camarones a la Diabla and Salmon Tatemado, plus standard Mexican favorites. (1420 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-813-1970.)

TIBET KITCHEN: Asian. Tibetan curries, stir-fries and rice dishes. Formerly known as Gangchen. (1833 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 872-8663.)

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Black Forest Inn: German. The schnitzel and sauerbraten are good year-round, and on a sunny summer day there's no more blissful place to quaff down a stein of Hacker-Pschorr or carve up a bratwurst than the lovely patio. (1 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-872-0812.)

El Mariachi Restaurant: Mexican. Quesadillas, tacos, Tampico-style steak, whole fried fish and more. (2750 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-5200.)

Harry Singh's Caribbean Restaurant: East Indies meets West Indies, with rotis, curries, calaloo, jerk chicken and Caribbean soft drinks, plus dangerously hot-hot sauce. Vegetarian items. (2653 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-6181.)

Jasmine 26: Vietnamese. The more upscale sister restaurant to the humble Jasmine Deli around the corner, Jasmine 26 blends traditional Asian flavors with Western-friendly fusion influences -- from caramelized claypot catfish to ginger Cornish hen to chicken lollipops. (8 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-870-3800.)

Jerusalem's: Middle Eastern. Falafel, kebabs, baba ghanouj, chicken and lamb curries, deep-fried veggies and much more. (1518 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-8883.)

Market Bar-B-Que: Ribs pit-smoked and served "naked," with sauce on the side. (1414 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-872-1111.)

Peninsula: Asian. Remains the area's most ambitious Malaysian dining experience, both in terms of its cuisine -- a complex melting pot of Indian, Chinese, Thai and traditional Malaysian preparations -- and in the trappings of surroundings and service. (2608 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-871-8282.)

Ping's Szechuan Bar & Grill: Chinese. Distinctive Asian cuisine. (1401 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-874- 9404.)

Rainbow Chinese Restaurant: Attractive decor and a diverse menu characterize this treasured Eat Street spot. The fare includes superb, hearty noodle soups and chow-fun dishes. (2739 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-7084.)